Thursday, September 11, 2014

St. Andrews, New Brunswick

After we left Hopewell Rocks, we drove to St. Andrews, a lovely little town on the shore of the Bay of Fundy--actually on a "bay within a bay."  The town lies at the mouth of the St. Croix River, where it empties into the Passamaquoddy Bay, which is an inlet of the Bay of Fundy.  We found a lovely campground operated by the Kiwanis Club, aptly named Ocean Front Campground, as it sits directly on the water, with just a road running between the edge of the campground and the bay.  Luckily we were able to get a site right on the edge, so we look out at the water, and can see the rapidly changing tide as it rushes in and out at a little over one foot per hour.

Today, Wednesday, we went downtown to look at some shops before our afternoon whale watching expedition.  Lots of quaint little shops along the wharf, and we found the neatest little yarn shop, Cricket Cove, where we had fun looking at all the different yarns indigenous to this area of Canada.  The shopkeeper was really nice and took a lot of time telling us all about the town, the area, the places of interest--all making us wish we had more time here; nothing unusual about that, huh?  Seems we're always falling in love with the places we visit and find ourselves wishing for more time to explore.  Anyway, Trisha found some really luscious yarn--has a good deal of silk in it--that she's been looking for in all the shops we've visited, since the yarn shop owner in Petosky, MI told us about all the fabulous yarn that comes from up here.  She got some really cute patterns--lots to stockpile for later on!  As we were dropping off her newfound goodies in the car, a man noticed our bikes in the back and stopped to chat.  Seems he's into the recumbent 3 wheeler styled bikes, and he wanted to talk about where we had biked in Canada and he shared with us his adventures in the US.  Just so random, yet a delightful little chat on the street.  Struck by how nice so many of the folks we've met have been--it's not been our experience in the States to have some stranger just stop and start up such a friendly conversation.

The whale watching cruise we chose was on a two masted tall sailing ship, that had been recommended to us by a woman we met at Hopewell Rocks.  We had hoped to be able to mostly sail, but due to the wind conditions and the distance we had to go to where the whales were feeding, we mostly motored, with the sails all furled.  Unfurled a couple of the smaller sails on the way back, though.  But it was a wonderful cruise, with two biologists aboard who came around to have discussions with small groups of passengers about the fin whales we were seeing, as well as the seals and other wildlife we could see, and the history and evolution of the Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy.  That really made it an interesting time, and we learned a whole lot.  The fin whale is the second largest species of whale, second only to the blue whale.  They spend June through September up here, which is feeding season, and then head to an area near Jacksonville, FL for the other 8 months of the year.  What we didn't know until today is that they only eat during the 4 months they are here, and then live off their stored blubber for the rest of the year!  The fin whale, which doesn't have teeth, feeds by swimming through the water with its mouth open, taking in 18,000 gallons of water in a single gulp.  The whale then essentially pushes the water through a series of finlike structures, called baleen, along each side of its mouth,  the water is essentially spit out, leaving the small fish trapped in the baleen.  An adult fin whale consumes about 4000 pounds of fish a day, which is really amazing, considering that the fish they eat are really small, including a lot of plankton.

Anyway, we got to follow a mother and her baby, which the biologists estimated to be less than a year old, since once the young whale learns the pattern and location of the fish schools it's ready to leave the mother and go out on its own.  So for nearly an hour, we watched as sometimes just the baby, sometimes just the mother, and sometimes the two of them together would surface, sending huge sprays of water out their blow holes, inhale, and then dive back down.  The crew was pretty good at predicting where they were likely to surface after a dive, to help us all get a better look and some photos.  All of a sudden, the mother's tail came up out of the water, in the fashion familiar from so many films and ads.  The biologists and ship captain all said that while this is behavior more typical of other species, fin whales almost never do this, so they were all just overwhelmed by it, excitedly telling us how rare it was to see this and how lucky we all were to witness it.  I got to see it, but unfortunately I was too slow to get the camera aimed and focused so I didn't get a picture.  But one woman on the boat with us was able to get a pic and has promised to send it to us, so hopefully we'll be able to post that eventually.  It was pretty remarkable to be able to be as close to these amazing animals as we were, and the crew said we had probably the most sightings of their recent cruises, so we were really fortunate.  And on the way back they served us homemade split pea soup, the special recipe of the woman who owns the ship along with her husband.  It was pretty chilly out on the bay, so this was a welcome treat.  Just a lovely way to spend our last day in Canada, as we will head back across the border tomorrow!

Looking out at the bay through the front windshield of the RV at our campsite
 The tide was really out in this picture--when the tide is in, it's right up to the big rocks you see in the foreground of this pic
 Sunset from the campground

Murals on some of the buildings in downtown St. Andrews

 Office for the Jolly Breeze, our whale watching ship
 Cricket Cove, the yarn shop, on the left, alongside another shop
 Love these brightly colored adirondack chairs that seem to abound all over the maritimes
 Looking down the harbor shoreline
 The wonderfully nice and helpful shopkeeper in the yarn shop
 Knitted socks hanging out front of her shop
 Cannons from the War of 1812

 Flags on the Jolly Breeze

 Old blockhouse along the harbor
 looking back toward town from the wharf
 More brightly colored adirondack chairs on someone's deck
 The St. Andrews Lighthouse
 The Algonquin Hotel
 Church spires downtown
 Waiting to board

 On board, as we moved out of the harbor, looking back toward town

 Passed the campground, you can see our carhouse right in the center--not a bad spot, eh? (See, I've learned to speak Canadian!!)
 Looking up at the ship's flags

 Bald eagle flying by our boat
 Harbor seal we passed on the way out to the whale feeding grounds

 These next two are of the huge salmon farming pens--most of the salmon commercially available now is farmed in similar operations.  These huge pens hold about 35000 fish, as they grow to the appropriate size for market.  The pens have mesh tops to prevent predatory birds from eating them, and an outer cage ring, to prevent waterborne predators getting to the fish.

 Ferry that goes to Grand Manan Island
Beginning to see the whales

They told us that we were only seeing about a third of the whale's length on the surface

Here you begin to see some pics of the dorsal fin--another whale watching boat on the other side of the whale

Mostly gray, dark brown, but some lighter, whitish portions closer to the underside of the whale; I really think the light coloring here is more of a reflection of the sun, given how little of the whale's body we can actually see

These next two are of the baby

Mama in the foreground, baby in the background

They came pretty close to the boat.  The captain said that he had a whale actually bump the boat once--if that's where the school of fish is, that's where the whale will go, humans and their boat, no matter!

Caught a bit of the expelling of water through the blow hole here

Another blow hole shot

Man is this split pea soup yummy!!
Rock left from the last appearance of the ice age glacier here
They had several specimens in their live well that they came around to let folks hold while they explained about each species.  Trisha's holding a starfish here.

Green crab
Looking up at the two small sails they unfurled
Coming back in, here are some harbor seals


  1. What fabulous pictures! They really take my breath away! Almond and I took a whirlwind tour through PEI and Nova Scotia in July. These pics make me realize we need to return and tour at a slower pace!

    1. Donna, you definitely need to go back and spend some more time there. We feel like we barely scratched the surface--so much more to see. We loved the people we met and especially the music.